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Waxman bill put on hold

July 01, 2010
A bill by California Congressman Henry Waxman that would impose new regulation on both offshore and onshore drilling has been put on hold.

Waxman said his bill would prevent new “high-risk” onshore and offshore oil-and-gas drilling unless the drilling company has a plan ensuring a blowout could be prevented or promptly stopped. Companies must also be able to drill a relief well within 15 days of a blowout and complete that well within 90 days. The draft sets minimum federal standards for blowout preventers and the casing and cementing of wells — areas that are subject to intense scrutiny in probes of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

One provision that may ruffle some feathers allows for citizen suits to “compel compliance” with the bill’s requirements. It also requires minimum standards for work stoppage “when there are conditions indicating an immediate risk of a blowout at a high-risk well,” and establishes an independent panel to review well-control technology and assess the adequacy of regulations.

From The Hill:

The Energy and Environment Subcommittee had been slated to mark up the bill, which is authored by Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and other senior Democrats, on Thursday morning.

But the session was scuttled Wednesday evening and a new date has not been set.

The bill introduced this week would mandate new precautions at “high-risk” oil-and-gas wells, such as redundant failsafe mechanisms on blowout prevention systems and tougher standards for well designs.

Republicans used a subcommittee hearing on the bill Wednesday to accuse Democrats of ramming the new legislation through.

The Republicans also alleged the plan would stymie domestic energy production, pointing to citizen lawsuits to compel compliance that the bill would enable and other provisions. Some centrist Democrats said they were also concerned about the bill’s scope.

Waxman and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who co-authored the bill and leads the Energy and Environment Subcommittee, called the measure a needed response to safety gaps laid bare by the BP oil spill.
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